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CDC lowers travel risk warning for cruising from 'very high' to 'high'

The CDC says it's a little bit safer to set sail on a cruise. The current recommendation is for all travelers to be fully vaccinated.

TAMPA, Fla — The CDC categorizes travel risk into four categories: low, moderate, high and very high. Last week, the CDC dropped the risk level of traveling by cruise from "very high" to "high."

Over the last few months, some cruise ships across the country have paused their voyages due to spikes in COVID-19. 

Now, as the U.S. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant's peak flattens, travelers are back to booking. 

RELATED: Norwegian Cruise Line to drop face mask requirement for US vessels beginning March 1

"The amount that people are booking has increased, the type of experience has increased, so people are going for longer cruises or more expensive cruises," Rick Saltarelli, owner of Salty Breeze Cruise Planners, said.

The change in risk level doesn't require any changes for cruise ships or passengers. The CDC recommends anyone traveling be fully vaccinated before departure. 

  • Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
    • Avoid travel to this destination.
  • Level 3: High level of COVID-19
    • Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
    • Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to this destination.
  • Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
    • Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
    • Unvaccinated travelers who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid nonessential travel to this destination. If you must travel and have concerns, talk to your doctor.
  • Level 1: Low level of COVID-19
    • Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to this destination.

While the risks that come with cruising are still high, so are sales. 

"Our best month ever in ten years was January," Saltarelli said. "February is going to be another very solid month. travel really is back — not just cruising, people really want to get out and travel."

Saltarelli said people are "revenge booking" which is spending more on travel for longer trips to make up for the vacations lost in 2020 and 2021. 

"I think there's a realization from people that COVID in some form is going to be around for a while just like the seasonal flu is," he said. "We will move on with our lives and deal with it with vaccines and boosters..."

If the ongoing pandemic still has you hesitant to set sail, travel insurance experts recommend you protect your trip. 

"If you start to get anxious about the numbers, if they start to go up, you can get a policy that lets you cancel for any reason," Kathy Kimmel said. Kimmel is a travel insurance expert with insuremytrip.com. 

By having full insurance for a trip, you can guarantee yourself a full refund, as opposed to a travel voucher, if something comes up forcing you to change plans. 

"I know travelers want to get out there and cruise," Kimmel said. "They're slowly allowing more numbers on the cruise ships. "

For Port Tampa Bay alone, cruises make up 20 percent of its revenue. Each cruise ship that comes through Tampa generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact. 

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